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Work Families?

Mary Tyler Moore hugging work family

Does your idea of family extend to the people you work with? The last episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show is a great example. Mary said that sometimes she thinks she gives too much importance to her job. That the people she works with are just the people she works with and not her family. Then she asked herself, what is a family? They are people who make you feel less alone, and really loved. She goes on to tell her co-workers that is what they have done for her. She thanks them for being her family.

Like Mary I have experienced loving work families. In each, I have learned valuable life lessons.

My first was at a grocery store. When I responded to the loudspeaker page "Ellie to the deli," customers smiled as I walked briskly through the store. Having worked at the St. Paul deli for ten years, I was on a first name basis with many of the regulars.

Many times Jayne, a daytime cook, had my favorite dishes cooling on the stove. Like a schoolchild greeted at home with milk and cookies, I felt her welcome me to my afternoon shifts. The food's warmth extended all the way to my heart.

My manager gave me a flexible work schedule so I could attend my children's school events. Anxiety pulsed through my veins when I relayed to my scheduling manager that she read my "not able to work" note wrong. She understood my need to participate in my children's special school events, so without delay, my schedule was changed.

Not only was I part of the work family, my children were included. Before rewarding them with ice cream, (their motivator to walk the one mile trek to the store with the babysitter) we would roam the store and eat the free food samples along the way. This gave us a chance to connect with other department workers.

My second experience was with an expense reimbursement company. Nancy, my manager, was starting the training department. As the middle child of a family of eight, I relished the idea of being the first trainer.

When asked to interview potential team members to determine if they were a good addition, I was elated. I wondered how this would work in real families. If siblings were allowed to interrogate incoming family members, how many would truly come onboard?

Like an expanding family, adding new team members meant an adjustment period. New ideas, expertise and personal preferences needed adoption. Time management and communication were keys to making this a successful transition. This job gave me the personal growth opportunity to learn how to collaborate instead of compete for attention.

My third opportunity was when I was a 3M Information Technology contractor. Employees and contractors alike were treated with respect and appreciation. There were no hidden lines separating individuals by role or status. Everyone was so excited to be part of the projects that the enthusiasm was felt in our daily interactions.

Rear facing station wagon

The 3M innovative spirit was expected and encouraged in all the departments. It was fun to be able to offer improvements. People listened. Together we found new ways to increase customer and employee satisfaction.

This reminds of a family suggestion I had when I was growing up. When the eight of us went camping, I didn't like being relegated to the rear facing back seat of the station wagon. My idea was to change our seating position periodically. So every seventh hour of our driving time, I got to sit in the front seat between Mom and Dad.

As you take responsibility for your role in your work family, remember to appreciate your co-workers and customers who challenge you to grow personally and professionally. Wherever your life lessons come from, understanding and embracing them can bring more joy into your life.

Affirm Yourself, Move Your Body, Change Your Life